Summary in detail :
A rattrap peddler went around selling small rattraps. His clothes were in rags. His cheeks were hollow. He had the look of a starved man. He made wire traps. He begged the material from stores and big farms. Sometimes he resorted to begging and a little stealing to survive. The world had never been kind to him. He had no home, no shelter.
The peddler led a lonely life. One day while he was thinking about his rattraps, an idea struck him. He thought that the world itself was a rattrap. As soon as anybody touched it, the trap closed on them. He was amused to think of some people who were already trapped, and some others who were trying to reach the bait in the trap.
It was a cold evening in December. He reached a cottage on the roadside. He knocked at the door and asked for a night’s shelter. The owner of the cottage was a lonely old crofter. He wanted someone to talk to. He welcomed the peddler. He gave the peddler hot porridge to eat, and tobacco to smoke. Then they played cards. The crofter was generous as well as trustful. He told the peddler that he had a cow and sold her milk to a creamery. He also told him that he received thirty kronors as payment the previous month. Then he took down a pouch and showed him the money. Then he put the money back in the pouch and hung it on a nail in the window frame. Next morning the peddler left. The crofter locked his cottage, and went away.
The peddler came back to the cottage. He had been tempted to steal the money that hung like a bait in the window frame. He smashed the pane and stole the money. Now he thought it was not safe to walk along the public highway. So he went into the woods. There he walked and walked but could not get out. He moved in circles. He was tired. He looked upon the forest as a rattrap in which he was caught. He thought his end was near. He lay down to die.
After a while he heard regular thumping of a hammer’s strokes. He knew the sound was coming from Ramsjo Ironworks. He stood up and walked in the direction of the sound. He opened the gate of the ironworks and went into the forge. The owner came on his nightly rounds and noticed the ragged wretch near the furnace. The ironmaster looked intently at the peddler’s face. He felt sure that the peddler was one of his old regimental comrades, Captain von Stable who had fallen on evil days. He invited the peddler to go home with him for Christmas. But the peddler was alarmed. He thought it was risky for him to accept the offer. He firmly declined it. The ironmaster went home.
The ironmaster sent his daughter Edla to persuade the peddler to come home. She spoke gently to him. The peddler felt confidence in her and agreed to go with her. On the way he was sorry to have stolen the crofter’s money that had put him in a trap.
The ironmaster was happy to have his old regimental comrade under his roof. He planned to feed him well and give him some respectable work. The servant cut the peddler’s hair, shaved him ad bathed him. The peddler appeared wearing one of the ironmaster’s fine suits. But when the ironmaster looked at him in daylight, he felt that he had made a mistake. The peddler was not captain von Stable. He thought that the man had deceived him. He even thought of handing him to the sheriff.
The peddler said that he had not pretended to be what he was not. He had not been willing to go to the ironmaster’s house. Even then he was willing to put on his rags and leave. He also told the ironmaster that the world was a rattrap, and he himself might one day be tempted by a big bait and get caught in the trap. The ironmaster told him to leave at once. Edla did not like her father’s asking the poor peddler to leave. She thought it was unfair to turn away the man whom they had invited. She wanted to have the joy of entertaining a homeless wanderer on Christmas Eve. She stopped the peddler and her father agreed to it. Edla served food to the peddler. He was given Christmas presents which he thankfully received. Edla told him that her father’s suit that the peddler was wearing was also a Christmas present. She assured him that he would be welcomed again if he liked to spend the next Christmas Eve with them.
Next morning the ironmaster and his daughter went to church. There they learned that the peddler was a thief. He had robbed the crofter. The ironmaster was sure that the peddler must have made away with their silver. Edla was dejected. But when they reached home they learned that the peddler had left. But he had taken away nothing. On the other hand he had left a Christmas present for Edla.
Edla opened the present. It was a tiny rattrap. Edla was happy to see that the peddler had left the crofter’s money behind. There was a letter also. It was addressed to Edla. He thanked her for her kindness. He wanted to repay her kindness. So he had left the crofter’s money and had requested her to return it to the crofter. He said he had been raised to captain. That was why he could come out of the rattrap in which he had been caught. He signed the letter Captain von Stable.
Main points :
1. ‘The Rattrap’ is a story that underlies a belief that essential goodness in human beings can be aroused through sympathy, understanding and love.
2. Once a man went around selling small rattraps but he took to begging and thievery to keep his body and soul together.
3. One day he was struck with the idea – the whole world is a big rattrap and it offers riches as bait.
4. People let themselves be tempted to touch the bait then it closes in on them bringing an end to everything.
5. One dark evening the rattrap peddler sought shelter in an old crofter’s roadside cottage.
6. The old man gave him food, tobacco they enjoyed the card game too.
7. Next morning the peddler stole away his thirty kroners.
8. The rattrap peddler escaped into a big confusing forest and got lost.
9. While resting on the ground he recollected his idea that the world is a rattrap and thought his end was near.
10. Hearing a thumping sound he reached Ramsjo ironworks for a night shelter.
11. The owner came on his nightly rounds and noticed the ragged wretch near the furnace.
12. He took him as an old acquaintance ‘Nils Olof.’
13. He invited him to stay with them for Christmas but the stranger declined the offer.
14. His daughter Edla Willmansson persuaded to go home with him.
15. She requested him to stay for Christmas Eve only.
16. On his way to the Manor House the peddler thought that he had thrown himself into the lion’s den.
17. The next day in broad day light the iron master realized the stranger was not captain and threatened to call the sheriff.
18. Edla pleaded for him and asked him to stay back.
19. Christmas Eve at Ramsjo was as usual and the stranger slept and slept.
20. She made him understand that if he wanted rest and peace he would be welcome next Christmas also. This had a miraculous effect on him.
21. Next morning they went for early church service leaving behind the guest who was asleep.
22. They learnt at church that a rattrap peddler had robbed an old crofter.
23. Edla becomes very upset.
24. They reach home immediately and learn that the peddler had already left but had not taken anything at all with him. Instead, he had left a small packet for the young girl as a Christmas present.
25. She opens the packet and finds a rattrap, three wrinkled ten-Kronor notes and also a letter with a request to return the Kroners to the crofter.